Thought Leadership Series

In our Thought Leadership series, we bring together experts to explore a wide variety of topics that affect local government, thinking about new ways of working and potential innovations.

Take a look at our latest articles below.

If you'd like to suggest a topic for us to explore, or are interested in contributing, please contact

Scotland's green recovery: the role of local government

The scale of the challenge to achieve net zero is huge – but so are the economic opportunities for Scotland in creating new green jobs, attracting inward investment and boosting exports, says David Kelly, Policy Manager at SCDI. Here he sets out five priorities for local government to achieve a just transition.

Using data to understand child poverty locally

In this video, Hanna McCulloch of the Improvement Service provides context on why accessing the right data is an important part of ensuring that local partners can take the most effective action to tackle child poverty. Professor John McKendrick of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University explores the importance of national data, local data, and national data that can be disaggregated to local level.

These presentations were originally included as part of a webinar held in September 2021. You can watch the webinar in full, including presentations from Dr Megan Watson of Public Health Scotland and Gena Howe of Glasgow City Council, on the Improvement Service Youtube channel.

Data driven decisions and metadata

The  latest video in the IS Thought Leadership Data series explores what metadata is and why it’s important, as well as what data driven decisions are.

The video is presented by Lucie Woellenstein, PhD Intern at the Data and Digital Identity Division at Scottish Government,

This presentation was originally recorded at a Metdata Seminar held on Teams on 10th August 2021.

You can watch all of the Data videos here:

Why geospatial professionals can lead the way on data
Simon Roberts, Data and Engagement Manager at the Improvement Service, looks at where common data issues come from and using examples from local government and IS initiatives, explores why geospatial professionals can, and often do, lead the way on data.
Homeworking Roundtable

Gerard McCormack, Head of Transformation, Performance and Improvement at the Improvement Service, sits down virtually with Abigail Marks, Professor of the Future of Work at Newcastle University Business School, and Dr Michelle Weldon-Johns, Senior Law Lecturer at Abertay University. The discussion looks at practical support organisations can for homeworking, how inclusive working from home can and has been, and how homeworking has impacted pace, productivity and work life balance.

Dr Michelle Weldon-Johns previously wrote about homeworking as part of the IS Thought Leadership series, examining some of the issues surrounding homeworking amongst local government staff. You can read the paper here -

Professor Abigail Marks previously presented a video as part of the IS Thought Leadership series, which looked at who is likely to work at home in the UK, why people want to work at home, the benefits and disadvantages, gender differences, and how COVID is changing the landscape of working. Watch it here:

Participatory democracy and the role of elected members

With increasing pressures on local government budgets and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has also been an increased focus on the term ‘participatory democracy, but what is it and what does this mean for elected members?

David Barr of the Improvement Service sits down with Dr Oliver Escobar, senior lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh, David O’Neill, former President of COSLA, and Councillor Elena Whitham, Depute Leader of East Ayrshire Council and COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, to discuss.

Scotland’s roadmap to COVID-19 recovery and renewal – five key actions for supporting vulnerable people and communities

Improvement Service staff working in violence against women, child poverty and inequalities set out how COVID-19 and its impacts have exacerbated existing inequalities and disadvantage. They also suggest five actions to support vulnerable people and communities.

Homeworking- COVID and beyond

Abigail Marks, Professor of Work and Employment at Stirling University, discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature and location of work.

20 Minute Neighbourhoods

Irene Beautyman, who leads on Planning for Place at the Improvement Service, discusses 20 minute neighbourhoods, including exploring what ‘place’ is and how we move towards 20 minute neighbourhoods.

This Thought Leadership series of videos was originally part of a webinar. You can watch the webinar here:

Related to this, the Improvement Service has also published an Elected Member Briefing on 20 minute neighbourhoods. It explains the key benefits of this living local ambition and how it will apply across all of Scotland, from remote rural communities to towns and cities.  It will be of interest to elected members, officers, stakeholders and beyond.

The importance of good data for public sector improvement

A series of videos exploring the role and importance of good data for public sector improvement.

The importance of good data for public sector improvement

Homeworking for local government staff

Dr Michelle Weldon-Johns, Senior Law Lecturer at Abertay University, examines some of the issues surrounding homeworking amongst local government staff. Dr Weldon-Johns has a particular interest in examining work-life balance, work-family rights and the issues around home working from a legal perspective.